Monday, 7 January 2008

Spirit of the Game

The 2nd Cricket Test between Australia and India came to an exciting, but fractious, end yesterday. The Australian team won after India lost 3 wickets in the final over (less than 10 minutes from the scheduled end), but the battle continued afterwards, with some pointed comments about the 'spirit of the game'. (Indian fan reactions here). This debate centres on whether players should 'walk' if they know they are out, rather than leaving it up to the umpire. As a cricket fan (as opposed to an Australian one) I would prefer that players do walk. But I can also see the point of view that players also get bad decisions from the Umpires, and walking removes the opportunity for these things to 'even out'.
While Golf is held up as an example of a self policing game, it does happen in chess as well, as the following game demonstrates.

Gluzman,M (2435) - Johansen,D (2490) [B22]
Doeberl Cup Canberra (4), 1998

1.e4 c5 2.c3 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 e6 6.Na3 Qd8 7.Bg5 cxd4 8.Nb5 a6 9.Nbxd4 Nbd7 10.Be2 Qc7 11.0-0 Bd6 12.Re1 0-0 13.Bf1 Ng4 (D)
After playing this move Johansen got up from the board. Before he returned Gluzman touched the h pawn, with the intention of kicking the knight with h3. He then realised this allowed a mate in 2 after 14. ... Bh2+ 15.Kh1 Nxf2# Now I don't know if anyone witnessed him touching the pawn, but I (as the arbiter) certainly didn't. Gluzman then waited for Johansen to return, moved the touched pawn and resigned. 14.h3 0-1

At the time the game was played both players were sharing first place (3/3). However Gluzman then won his remaining 3 games, while Johansen conceded draws in rounds 6&7, allowing Gluzman to share first place with Johansen, and take the trophy on tie-break!


SanjeevBikhchandani said...

The important thing is that the rules should be the same for both the sides and they should be made explicit before the game starts.

So if Virender Sehwag is suspended in South Africa for appealing for a taking a catch which wasn’t then should Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke be. Or are the rules different for different sides.

If most sledging is OK but some terms are deemed racist therefore some forms of sledging are not acceptable while others are - then let the ICC publish the rule book of sledging - what sledging is OK and what is not with illustrated examples, a dictionary etc. (for instance it is apparently OK for Glenn McGrath to ask a West Indies batsman what a certain part of Brian Lara’s anatomy feels like because it was non racial macho thing to say – basically gutter level personal abuse if OK in the gentleman’s game but not anything to do with race). Or should action be taken against both forms of abuse.

For the record let me state calling someone a monkey does not have racist connotations in India – in fact a monkey is a revered animal in India and one of the major Indian Gods is the monkey God Hanuman. However that is no defence since calling a person of African descent a monkey does have racist connotations and should not be done – but maybe many in India do not understand the sensitivity of the matter.

The joke doing the rounds in India is that when an Australian child learns to say the word “Mother” for the first time the parents say “Two cheers. Junior has learnt half a word”. For the Australian team to complain about sledging and occupy the moral high ground on this issue is a bit thick.

I guess they were getting a taste of their own medicine in the World Cup 20-20 and India and were suffering from some not inconsiderable digestion as a consequence.

Harbhajan made a mistake if (and only if) he referred to Andrew Symonds as a monkey. Wrong choice of animal mate - you should have used a reference to some other noteworthy mammal to respond to Symonds’ abuse - swine or dog come to mind as possible candidates - they are pure insults and carry with them no racist overhead. This error gave the Aussies a handle to turn the tables on the Indians by raising the racism issue. The Indians need to refine their sledging strategy. It needs to be more nuanced - someone in the Indian camp needs to think this through. India needs a specialist sledging coach (anyone for Gregg Chappell for this position - he is Australian and they are the best at this).

But be happy India - in colonial times it took the word of ten Indians to overrule the word of one white man in India. Today you need to have two white witnesses to overrule the word of one Indian.

The world is indeed flattening.

Feels a bit odd though - white people accusing Indians of racism.

But have we heard the last of this.

We have a situation where a white match referee (from a country that till very recently practised the worst form of racism as state policy) takes the word of two white witnesses (who are not neutral) over that of one Indian witness (who is not neutral) and without any independent witness or corroborating evidence (no video, no audio, nothing heard by the umpires) bans an Indian player (who the white Australian captain finds himself incapable of playing and so will benefit from this ban, and it was this Australian captain who insisted that the racism charge be laid at Harbhajan’s doorstep).

Hmm. Food for thought perhaps

TrueFiendish said...

I'm not sure if the debate centres on whether players should walk, though that is part of it. The whole thing is much more involved than that, and perhaps it's best if we don't try to resolve it all here. There's enough hysteria already.

I would say to sanjeev, though, that, although monkeys are universally respected for their intelligence, good manners and dinner-table conversation, I suspect there is no hint of reverence when it is used by Indian crowds and players to describe Symonds.

I'd also suggest that insulting a player like Symonds is not only politically and ethically dubious but also a practical error. Look at his results. A red rag was waved at a bull.

Lastly, a recent poll showed that 80% of Australians feel Ricky Ponting is not a good ambassador for the game. I am one of those. When Australia wins easily it's all smiles and jokes, but when the pressure is on I, for one, don't like what I see.

Anonymous said...

The Perth test will be BIG and both teams will have a point to prove. Second is but first in a long line of losers.

You have to see the funny side of the Indian team sitting on the bus outside their hotel for 3 and a half hours while their administrators bumble about. They have really shot themselves in the foot.